Awww. . . a scorpion mom protects her kids

December 2, 2012 • 1:07 pm

According to both New Scientist and the GDT (Gesellschaft Deutscher Tierfotographen, or “Society of German Animal Photography”), this photo, by Ingo Arndt, was winner of the Fritz Pölking Award for 2012 (read about Pölking here):

Scorpion / Skorpion

Here’s the description from New Scientist:

WHAT’S not to love about this photo? In one fell swoop it inverts the reputation of a much-feared invertebrate. For the defenceless newborns sitting under the vicious sting are the scorpion’s own offspring, tended by their mother until they are big enough to survive on their own.

It’s not just me who likes the shot – it has won German photographer Ingo Arndt the Fritz Pölking award for the second time.

There’s a good reason why scorpions are one of the few instantly recognisable invertebrates: that bulb at the end of the abdomen is full of deadly venom. What is less well known is that unlike most other arachnids they are viviparous: rather than laying eggs they give birth to live young. The juveniles are unable to feed or defend themselves, or regulate their moisture levels – they need their mother’s protection. It’s all really quite cute.

Buthidae family – to which the animals pictured here belong – have venom that is deadly to humans. Cuddly they ain’t.

“The owner of the scorpion mentioned that the animal is very dangerous,” says Arndt. “I just kept a safe distance, around 10 centimetres. The good thing is that they can’t jump.”

h/t: Matthew Cobb

48 thoughts on “Awww. . . a scorpion mom protects her kids

    1. You are *so* right!

      And, the picture helps, in its own small way, to overcome the tendency to judge the attractiveness, and hence value, of critters based on anthropocentric aesthetic criteria.

      About that poison sac and stinger–creationists have no explanation for it. Not that they don’t babble in more or less comprehensible sentences, but that don’t have an *explanation*.

      1. As a mechanical engineer, the details of that tail’s “design” are amazing.

        — The longitudinal creases along each segment to increase stiffness

        — those incredible hinges

        — the curve, length, and increasing thickness of the stinger

        God, you’re hired! (But I can’t guarantee Sundays off…)

  1. Cute! We had been talking with our three year old daughter about maternal care in spiders just before I found this, and then we showed her this picture. Very serendipitous.

  2. Ahh, lovely little scorpions.
    Useless fact # 347 : scorpions glow under ultraviolet light. This fact ceases to be useless when you find yourself working night shift in the desert on a site with no toilets facilities other than “over there”, and you have a battery-powered UV lamp for examining rocks for hydrocarbon fluorescence.
    I’ve never really been convinced by that claim of “Useless fact”. You don’t know what it’s use is yet

    1. I have always admired the shape and proportions of scorpions.

      A couple of months ago we went “blacklighting” for scorpions on some old mine dumps while prospecting for fluorescent minerals. Here’s a video (I deleted the prefix so it wouldn’t embed – I hope that works):

      And here’s the Glow Rocks page with our fluorescent mineral photos…I guess we should add some of our scorpion pics to make it look more realistic.

        1. Some aren’t too bad – short 4WD road and a bit of hill scrambling. Others are a lot more work. And you need a light, of course. E-mail us if you’re interested. You’re probably closer to some sites than we are.

          1. Thanks — I will. Might be a bit, though…I’ve got a few other projects that have to take precedence, first, but I’ve added it to my to-do list.



      1. Ohh, cuddly!
        I’ll ask the wife if I can have a pet scorpion. That’s sure to improve my chances of getting a puddy-tat.

  3. What I’d like explained is why arachnids don’t have necks. Everyone else has one and finds it useful, but arachnids have to move their entire bodies to look around.

    1. I remember when Tiktaalik was announced that it had the world’s oldest neck. If only tetrapodomorphs have necks, that’s a tiny minority of animals, making no-neck the default, so it might be more appropiate to ask why we do have necks…

      1. Insects have a joint between head and thorax, arachnids don’t, so that’s the sense of ‘neck’ in play here.

  4. I was stung by a scorpion in Africa when I was three. Don’t remember much about it, I think I passed out. I’m still fairly phobic about them, wouldn’t pick one up even if its sting had been removed.

    1. Speaking from exactly the same experience (except I was 30, not three), I can say I am not surprised you passed out – scorpion stings can be incredibly painful and leave you with a lasting feeling of the wound being chewed, as if by a rat. They can also cause dramatic muscle twitches. I was stung in the knee once, I still wince to think about it. By the sounds of it it wasn’t a buthid or you might not have made it to four.

    2. Stinging criticism.

      Richard received it at three, and he’s been passing along the favor to Creationists ever since.


    3. Scorpions are endemic to the Phoenix/Scottsdale/Tempe area where I live. I’m sure there must be species whose stings are more fatal. Most stings by scorpions here cause excruciating pain and numbness in the stung limb for about 48 hours. That’s about it. But it’s a different story for babies and toddlers. They’re curious about anything new and often can’t communicate clearly. A good friend’s two year old screamed and then foamed at the mouth. No one at the time could figure out why. Doctors started a regimen of seizure drugs. The child was in Intensive Care for 3 weeks. The scorpion sting almost took her life. Living in Phoenix with small kids comes at a cost. It’s quite unnerving to read comments marveling the scorpions’ form, a creature for which I have such visceral disgust.

      1. It’s quite unnerving to read comments marveling the scorpions’ form, a creature for which I have such visceral disgust.”

        Am I to understand you would feel the same way about a beautifully designed crystal chandelier — one that by pure accident just so happened to fall upon some poor, unfortunate victim’s head?

      2. It is decidedly un-nerving to be stalked as prey by an invertebrate of under 1% of your mass.
        It is even more disturbing to be aware tat the invertebrate is probably correct to view you as prey.

          1. You should try removing wiring from under skid-mounted units approaching midnight. The scorpions are nearly as unattractive as working under the mid-day sun.
            NOT recommended!

              1. I doubt that their behaviour admits of such complexity. “If it’s not a threat, then it’s a potential meal.”

    4. And I’m sure that you wouldn’t wish one to be (violently) de-stingified, just to allow you to cuddle one.
      Does Her-Lana-ness have shudder-inducing props from the Dr.Who set?

  5. I’ve seen spiders carrying their young on their back too in Africa. Unfortunately I have no idea what type.

    Also, awww was not the word that came to mind…

  6. At the photo gallery during the 2009 International Congress of Speleology in Kerrville, TX there was a similar photo of an amblypygid giving birth. While these arthropods are quite fearsome in appearance they’re harmless to humans. I thought the photo captured all the vulnerability of that moment in a very touching manner.

    1. I’ve never heard of an amblipygid and certainly never seen one (because if I ever had I’d still be twitching). I just Googled it. According to Wikipedia, they range from 4 to 10 inches in size, including legspan. If I saw one of those things ten inches across (including legspan or not) in my garden I don’t think I’d venture outdoors ever again…

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